In much the same way that director George A. Romero creative output has been primarily centered around the highly successful "Dead" series of zombie films, then fellow fantasy director Don Coscarelli has for over two decades seen his universe swirling around the lesser successful, but equally cult, and much loved "Phantasm" series of horror movies.
Coscarelli was born in Tripoli in North Africa, but raised around Southern California, and was interested in the cinema from a young age and together with his friends they made several low budget movies that aired on community TV stations to very positive feedback.
After a low key start with his first feature film embracing the trials of a young teenager caught in a world of alcoholic abuse Jim, the World's Greatest (1976), Coscarelli followed this up with a lighter comedic tale about another youngster and his view of the world as an impressionable 12 year old in Kenny & Company (1976). However, the imaginative Coscarelli then really hit the (horror) big time with the 1979 release of the highly inventive fright thriller Phantasm (1979). Once again, a young boy is at the center of a spine-chilling story about a creepy funeral home, a sinister Tall Man (wonderful acting by Coscarelli's long time buddy Angus Scrimm), disappearing corpses, malignant dwarfs and a gateway into a hellish, other world dimension. Shot on a very modest budget, Phantasm (1979) was hotly received by horror fans worldwide, and the film has since spawned three sequels...each fairly decent in their own right! First up was the gorier Phantasm II (1988), followed by Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994), and the third sequel to date, Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998). A fifth and final sequel titled "Phantasm's End" has been apparently discussed, but nothing further has yet eventuated on this project. As the Angus Scrimm is approaching his 80th birthday, Phantasm fans hope that the "Tall Man" will be there for the proposed final chapter of this thrilling saga of the Undead!
Apart from the "Phantasm" series, Coscarelli also wrote and directed the well received sword and sorcery film The Beastmaster (1982) starring athletic Marc Singer and the eye-catching Tanya Roberts being pursued by villainous high priest Rip Torn. And recently in 2002, Coscarelli cast horror & fantasy film screen hero Bruce Campbell in the highly off-beat Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) that depicts Elvis and John F. Kennedy hiding out in a Texas rest home where the residents are being attacked by a 3,000 year old cowboy boot wearing mummy trying to bring itself back to life! A strange script it may sound, but indie and horror film fans loved the unusual premise and quirky humor, and the film was a hot hit at several film festivals and has spawned a further cult following for Coscarelli and Campbell.
Coscarelli, similar to gifted fantasy directors such as Wes Craven, Sam Raimi and George A. Romero has carved himself a true cult niche in modern horror film history, and his loyal fans eagerly await his next project.
|Shelley Kay||(? - ?) 2 children|
His Phantasm movies
Usually casts Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm
Son of best-selling novelist Kate Coscarelli.
Is married with two children.
Father of award-winning vegan chef and author Chloe Coscarelli and a son named Andy.
Profiled in "Hollywood Horror from the Director's Chair: Six Filmmakers in the Franchise of Fear" by Simon Wilkinson (McFarland, 2008).
He was denied entry into UCLA.
His favorite movie of all time is 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Admits that classic Universal monsters got him into the horror genre. In addition to that, he wanted to make a horror film because he enjoyed the audience reaction when he had a thrill in Kenny & Company (1976). That horror film became Phantasm (1979).
The main idea of Phantasm (1979) came to him in a dream. One night, he dreamed of fleeing down endlessly long marble corridors, pursued by a chrome sphere intent on penetrating his skull with a wicked needle. There was also a quite futuristic "sphere dispenser" out of which the orbs would emerge and begin chase.
Due to creative interferences with the producers of The Beastmaster (1982), he was forcibly removed from the editing room and his version was entirely re-cut. Although he doesn't disown the movie, he is quite unhappy with the final result.
He considers the Italian giallo movies, specially Suspiria (1977) as a great influence on the Phantasm films.
He's a great fan of Asian horror films like The Eye (2002) and recent zombie movies such as 28 Days Later... (2002) and Shaun of the Dead (2004). He also enjoys Eli Roth and admires Guillermo del Toro a lot.
His dream project is to direct a time-travel movie.
Was offered the chance to direct, but declined, Conan the Destroyer (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985), Silver Bullet (1985), Warlock III: The End of Innocence (1999) (V) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003).
Never went to a film school.
He likes backpacking and has always been fascinated with survival in the wilderness and the cult of survivalism in some parts of the United States. Coscarelli claims that his interest on those three things became the basis of Survival Quest (1988).
In 2005, New Line Cinema entered into serious talks with Coscarelli to remake the Phantasm franchise as a new trilogy and offered him the chance to be the executive producer of the project. Coscarelli and Stephen Romano wrote a script which was a hybrid sequel/remake, having Mike, Reggie and the Tall Man pass the torch onto a new generation of characters. However, New Line didn't like the sequel aspect and wanted a more straight remake of the material. After serious consideration, Coscarelli rejected in favor of a fifth Phantasm movie with Anchor Bay (now Starz Home Entertainment) on board to produce. In the end, Coscarelli's wish to remain independent and have total creative control, together with the difficulties to come up with the budget needed for a fifth installment, caused the project to be halted indefinitely.
In early 1992, New Line Cinema offered him to fund and distribute a third and fourth Phantasm movies to be shot back to back. At that time, Coscarelli didn't feel he had enough material written to make two films at once, so he turned the offer down.
At the age of nineteen, became the youngest director to ever have a feature film distributed by a major studio when he sold his independently produced and critically acclaimed drama, Jim, the World's Greatest (1976), to Universal Pictures, who released the movie in 1976.
Getting movies made is difficult for everybody, independent or mainstream.
I guess I'm luckier than most to even have a label attached to me. There is no question though that this particular label makes it very difficult to gain respect from the people who finance movies. However, since my first exposure to the power of cinema was from genre films, I am proud to wear the label.
I had no plans, when I made the first Phantasm, to create a myth. I was only trying to make an effective low-budget movie, which might propel an audience member or two out of their seats on occasion. If anything, it was the fans who elevated our little tale into myth.
I guess if I had any regret regarding the Phantasm series, it would be that A. Michael Baldwin did not star in Phantasm II. I sometimes think I should have called Universal's bluff, and given them a take it-or leave it ultimatum. However, they very well might have chosen not to make the film, and there might not have been any Phantasm sequels.
(On Phantasm's "Phans"): What I love the most about them is their intelligent and interesting analysis of the films. Some of the speculation can be very deep, and sometimes fans find amazing connections, which neither I nor the actors have made.
At the beginning there was no master plan. The original Phantasm was intended to be a stand-alone film. However, after seeing how Phantasm II worked (starting the sequel the moment after the original ended), and the power of the fan response to the sequel and their speculations, the pattern of the storyline evolved easily.
(On Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man): Audiences have a fascination with his character, and seem to actually enjoy watching him doing his nasty deeds. I think this stems in large part from the subtle talents Angus uses in portraying this wicked and complex character.
(On sequels to horror movies): Sequels have been with us from the beginning in horror, from Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and The Wolfman. Some of those sequels were better than the original films. I think that, at its best, the concept of horror sequels allows us the luxury of immersing ourselves in the nightmarish world of horror, and experiencing these strange characters and bizarre situations over a substantial time period.
Perhaps if I had focused my energies more on breaking into the system in a conventional way, and not spent as much time on the Phantasm series, I could have made more, varied, and certainly bigger budgeted films. But I have to admit -- making movies with balls, dwarves, hearses and four-barrel shotguns is a hoot!
[About a possible remake of "Phantasm"]: I get a phone call every week, it seems, from somebody who wants to do it. It's something I've been resisting for a while. I do think that, given the proper context, it would really be exciting to see what a younger filmmaker could bring to that story. It's something I'm open to but I guess I'm seeking the right circumstances. Takashi Miike doing "Phantasm," how would that be? Anything that would ever be done would have to be done with sensitivity to the appreciation that the fans have for it. They just worship Angus as the Tall Man and Reggie as the loyal trusted friend.
[on making a fifth Phantasm movie]: It's something we've talked about through the years but the timing hasn't worked out or getting the finances exactly right. I've been cooking up a couple of incarnations of things that I can't talk about now, but hopefully in the near future we could get something in the "Phantasm" world happening.
(February 2008) Working on two sequels at the same time: The most anticipated "Phantasm V" and Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires (????).
(March 2008) Just bought the rights to David Wong's Novel "John Dies at The End" to make a big screen adaptation.
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